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Man's family speaks on U.S. marshal shooting

November 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A videotape of a fatal shooting raises new questions. Was an off-duty U.S. marshal acting in self-defense when he shot and killed a man in an alleyway? The motive of self-defense is being questioned by the dead man's family, and they've filed a lawsuit.

Newly released surveillance video and a 911 call raise questions about a federal marshal's version of a fatal shooting. The off-duty marshal shot a man five times following a disagreement. Some of those shots were in the back. The marshal says it was self-defense.

On video, the muzzle flash lights up the alley as U.S. Marshal Matthew Itkowitz fired his gun at Ryan Gonzalez. Five shots hit Gonzalez, three in the back.

"In my opinion, the video shows that there was absolutely no reason whatsoever for this marshal to shoot my client's son, and he was killed unjustifiably," said attorney Michael J. Grobaty.

Grobaty is representing the Gonzalez family.

A 911 call was made by a friend of the marshal's wife, who was hiding under a car.

"From what I heard, she was crying hysterically and she says that she saw him shoot somebody in cold blood. And because she knows that he can kill somebody else like that, that he's going to kill her," says the male voice on the 911 tape.

In a poor-quality video, Itkowitz can be seen in front with his wife Alexandra walking behind him. They had been drinking and arguing. According to a district attorney report, he had hit her with a baseball cap and pushed her. She ran into a doorway behind a tattoo shop and asked for help.

Itkowitz and the victim, Ryan Gonzalez, can be seen in the video. Itkowitz was knocked to the ground twice.

Gonzalez was an ex-convict who apparently was trying to protect the marshal's wife. The autopsy concluded Gonzalez also had been drinking.

The surveillance tape isn't clear, but at one point Gonzalez may have pulled a gun, then put it back in his pocket. The possible gun is not seen again on the video.

The marshal pulls his gun and holds it hidden by his side. Gonzalez turns, Itkowitz crouches and starts firing. And keeps firing after Gonzalez is hit and runs.

The district attorney said: "We have determined that criminal charges cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically there is insufficient evidence to prove that Itkowitz did not act in self-defense when he killed Ryan Gonzalez."

"The videotape that we got for the first time yesterday afternoon speaks for itself," said Grobaty. "Our client was not confronting the officer in any way, shape or form."

No one from the district attorney's office would go on camera Wednesday. Itkowitz is reportedly still a U.S. marshal. The marshal service could not be reached for comment.

"We know that they didn't prosecute the marshal and they gave him back his gun," said the victim's mother, Alice Smithen. "He's back on the street again and that's very disappointing."

The D.A.'s report on the case does not mention any gun other than the one used by Itkowitz.

"I'm just so disappointed in our justice system," said the victim's father, Ray Smithen. "

District Attorney spokesperson Sandi Gibbons said another weapon was found at the scene.


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